One of the biggest mistakes Gundam games make is when they try and put you in the shoes of a Newtype. It always ends up being disappointing as it is an impossible thing to get right. We’re not meant to be Newtypes, not yet anyway, and Gundam games should acknowledge this.
This is where the Blue Destiny trilogy came in. Released across three mini-games, they placed you as a grunt GM pilot on the front-lines. Not only that, you got it all via a faithfully claustrophobic first person cockpit view. Put simply, this approached nailed what the Gundam mythos was about in a way that hadn’t been done before. It’s also one of the best Gundam games ever made.
The main thrust of the plot is that you play as a Federation pilot called Yuu Kajima stuck in a grunt GM taking on Zeon hordes on the front-lines. Along with your two wingmen, a conspiracy is uncovered based around a mysterious set of blue mobile suits that exhibit ferocious abilities in combat. It turns out this is down to a new and highly dubious computer system called EXAM. The origins of this stem from a Zeon research institute where one of its top scientists defected to the Federation. This means both the Feds and Zeeks have access to EXAM system mobile suits. This is where the fun begins.
Combat is undertaken in the first person and whilst you can move around manually you also have an orbit lock-on setup too. You’re also equipped with bog standard weapons, which means you can’t drop an enemy mobile suit in one hit. The upside is that you’re fast, very fast. Boosting around and then raining death from above is wonderfully satisfying. Close combat is also triggered via range too and doesn’t have to be managed separately.
Along with all this you have a wonderfully spartan cockpit HUD that shows the bare minimum of what you need. As such, things like enemy health indicators are entirely absent. This simplicity is entirely sensible in terms of design however, as the game’s pace is incredibly fast. Having to manage an endless array of HUD inputs would be distracting and it would detract from the sense of gritty combat that the cockpit view so wonderfully instils.
In any case, it’s not long before Yuu gets an EXAM system mobile suit of his very own. The mighty Blue Destiny GM, or BD1 as it’s known. This is also where the clever stuff begins. As we know, we can’t be Newtypes but the EXAM system rationalises that in a very interesting way. As it turns out, the EXAM system is actually the downloaded consciousness of a Newtype called Marion Whelch. So whilst we can’t be a Newtype it turns out our mobile suit is run by one. This means you can still play the game as a normal human being but much of the player’s potency is rationalised down to the EXAM system.
It’s a nifty narrative trick and it adds some interesting character development. As over time Yuu bonds with Marion and is happy to effectively work with her. Whereas the Zeon antagonist Nimbus Schterzen (played by a wonderfully villainous Sho Hayami) is fuelled by insecurity and utterly hates Newtypes, only wanting to exploit them for his own ends.
Over the course of the second game, Yuu and his BD1 encounter the EXAM system powered Efreet Custom and eventually both machines are destroyed. Thinking it’s finally over, it turns out that those were not the only EXAM system mobile suits in development. As there are two Gundam unit types as well, unfortunately Nimbus finds this out too and promptly steals BD2.
We’re then left with the final stretch as Yuu, now in his Gundam type BD3, hunts down Nimbus as well as discovering the history behind EXAM. This wonderfully culminates in a nail biting duel between the two EXAM system Gundams in space around a colony. The result of which is that both Gundams are destroyed and Marion awakes from her coma. If you’re curious about other aspects of the game’s narrative then there is also a manga but it only goes as far as the destruction of BD1 and Efreet Custom eschewing the whole space arc.
There’s a lot this game gets right, the handling of the various mobile suits are fast but weighty. The first person view coupled with the initial underpowered player hardware makes combat suitably tense, doubly so when you face bosses. The narrative is also classic Gundam and allows the player to become a Newtype, albeit in an indirect sense. To say that they don’t make games like this anymore is a sad truth.
Overall then, this is probably the defining Gundam game. If only for the fact that you don’t actually get to pilot a Gundam, for the first two parts anyway, and aren’t treated as a Newtype. The first person cockpit view also makes these games some of the most immersive and accurate to the host work in ways few other games have. It even let you use the Saturn TwinSticks (originally meant for the port of Virtual On). So even if you don’t rate Gundam games, to not play the Blue Destiny trilogy is pretty damn inexcusable. As such, the Blue Destiny games should be an essential part of any gamer’s library.
[spoiler show=”Final Mission”]